Scotty Michael Foundation adds Reagan’s Ray of Light retreat to help mothers grieve infant loss

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For Brian and Lauren Kersey, a care package from the Scotty Michael Foundation provided a slight glimmer of hope as they grieved the stillbirth of their daughter, Reagan, in September 2020. The Noblesville couple, already parents to two boys, felt blindsided by the loss, but they immediately knew they were not alone.

Months later, wanting to create a legacy for Reagan, the Kerseys approached Kathleen Jeffers, founder of the Scotty Michael Foundation, to ask how they could support other parents going through similar situations. Jeffers, a Noblesville resident whose son was stillborn at a Carmel hospital in 2018, had gone on a retreat with other moms who had experienced loss and thought about offering a similar program through her foundation. Lauren immediately agreed to help coordinate the first one, called, “Reagan’s Ray of Light,” which took place April 29 to May 1 in Doyle, Tenn.

Lauren described the experience as a turning point in processing her grief as she connected with other moms in a peaceful, mountain setting.

Lauren Kersey holds her daughter, Reagan Lou. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Kersey)

“It was like an emptying out for me,” Lauren said. “I was able to cleanse myself by sharing my story with people who really understood. I remember coming home feeling like I had turned a corner, in a way.”

Moms at the retreat received personalized gift packages when they arrived, including a Ray of Light sweatshirt with her baby’s initial on the sleeve. The relaxed schedule provided time for rest, exploration of nearby natural areas and the chance to share stories of love and loss.

A date has not been set for the next retreat, although Jeffers said she hopes to raise enough funds to hold them twice a year.

The retreats are only available to mothers, but Jeffers said she hopes to eventually offer an experience for fathers processing grief, as well, although it likely won’t be a retreat format.

Lauren said they named the retreat “Reagan’s Ray of Light” for several reasons.

“The other women I met (at the retreat) who had this experience were a form of light in the darkness,” she said. “That’s more or less a theme for me and Brian in our grief, processing that the light and goodness can coexist with all of the darkness. It’s literally the worst thing you can imagine going through, yet there can still be gratitude, there can still be love, there can still be goodness that comes from it or that exists in spite of it.”

In addition to the retreat, the Scotty Michael Foundation offers a monthly coffee group to build community among parents who have suffered loss. It also provides care packages, known as Scotty boxes, to be presented to parents in the hospital after experiencing a stillbirth or losing a child shortly after birth. The boxes include a baby memorial book, guardian angel necklace, “Loved Baby” devotional, resources on lactation support, funeral or cremation arrangements, and other items. The boxes are provided to parents at Ascension St. Vincent hospitals in Carmel and on 86th Street in Indianapolis.

“When you go through something like that, it’s so traumatizing and so significant that you don’t even really know where to begin and where to start,” she said. “For us, it was really, truly a lifeline that we received a Scotty box.”

Learn more at ScottyMichael.org.

Pink skies at the inaugural Reagan’s Ray of Light retreat. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Kersey)

Golf scramble fundraiser

The Scotty Michael Foundation will hold its second golf scramble fundraiser on Sept. 9 at Plum Creek Golf Club, 12401 Lynnwood Blvd. in Carmel. Cost is $150 and includes a round of golf, lunch and unlimited soft drinks, beer and wine. Learn more and register at scottymichael.org/2022-golf-scramble.

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